It is our pleasure to welcome Scott Creighton, author of The Great Pyramid Void Enigma: The Mystery of the Hall of the Ancestors, as our featured author for July. Scott has spent decades researching the deep mysteries surrounding ancient Egyptian civilisation. In this book, he investigates the puzzling discovery of the ‘Big Void’ within the Great Pyramid of Giza. Analysing ancient Coptic-Egyptian texts and evidence from astronomy and archaeology, Scott reveals the purpose of this enigmatic ‘Void’ and explores the controversy surrounding its discovery.
Interact with Scott on our AoM Forum here
Excerpt from Chapter 1
A Troublesome Discovery
It seemingly came from nowhere, the proverbial bolt from the blue, the discovery of a massive new “void” or space deep within the superstructure of the Great Pyramid of Giza—a possible new pyramid chamber that is equal in size to the pyramid’s enormous Grand Gallery (fig. 1.1). The discovery of the “Big Void,” as it was dubbed by its discoverers, was an instant media sensation and one that reverberated all around the world. Indeed, such was the magnitude of this discovery that even people with little interest in ancient Egyptian history were openly discussing it and, naturally, speculating on what, if anything, might be found within.
On November 2, 2017, an international team of around thirty-three scientists from the ScanPyramids project published the results of their two-year-long Great Pyramid research project in the journal Nature. Using a technique known as muon tomography (or simply muography), the ScanPyramids team set up their muon detectors inside and outside the Great Pyramid. Similar to x-rays, which are used to show different densities of matter within the human body, muons (which are by-products of cosmic rays) can be used to detect different densities of matter within solid rock, thus revealing areas where there are cavities or possible hidden chambers within the structure. The technology was first successfully used in the 1970s and since then has been used to probe the interiors of structures as diverse as volcanoes, glaciers, and even nuclear reactors.
The ScanPyramids project team was split into three separate groups, with each group working independently of the others using a different muography technique. All three groups reported identical findings with a confidence level of 99.9999 percent that the Big Void within the Great Pyramid truly is a real structural anomaly within the monument and not simply a statistical anomaly. In short, the scientists detected a massive space almost as large as, and a short distance above, the Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid (fig. 1.2), a space that could turn out to be a truly massive hidden chamber.
And with this discovery, a new chapter in our understanding of this most ancient monument was about to begin.
Or was it?
The reaction to the discovery of the Big Void from leading Egyptologists and other academics around the world was perplexing, to say the least, with some people talking about the “discovery of the century” while others suggested that the data the ScanPyramids team presented was actually in error and that no new space exists in the Great Pyramid at all.
Zahi Hawass, former head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt (now the Ministry of Antiquities), took the academic “no mystery, nothing to see here” attitude toward the ScanPyramids project’s data. Hawass led the ScanPyramids science committee overseeing the project and said:
“This is not a discovery. The pyramid is full of voids and that does not mean there is a secret chamber or a new discovery.”
Leading American Egyptologist, Mark Lehner, who is on the ScanPyramids project’s review panel, also waded into the controversy, stating about the discovery:
“Right now it’s just a big difference; it’s an anomaly. But we need more of a focus on it especially in a day and age when we can no longer go blasting our way through the pyramid with gunpowder as [British] Egyptologist Howard Vyse did in the early 1800s.”
While Hawass and other Egyptologists insist on caution in making any official pronouncement as to what the Big Void actually is (or may be), other investigators in the project have been more forthcoming with their views.
“Sébastien Procureur, from CEA-IRFU, University of Paris-Saclay, emphasized that muography only sees large features, and that the team’s scans were not just picking up a general porosity inside the pyramid.
“With muons you measure an integrated density,” he explained. “So, if there are holes everywhere then the integrated density will be the same, more or less, in all directions, because everything will be averaged. But if you see some excess of muons, it means that you have a bigger void.
“You don’t get that in a Swiss cheese.”
Mehdi Tayoubi of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute in France and codirector of the ScanPyramids project believes this massive cavity within the Great Pyramid to have been a deliberate construction.
“When you know the pyramids, and the perfection of the pyramids, it’s hard to imagine that it’s an accident. . . .We don’t know whether this big void is horizontal or inclined; we don’t know if this void is made by one structure or several successive structures. What we are sure about is that this big void is there; that it is impressive; and that it was not expected as far as I know by any sort of theory. . . .It’s not a false start, where they tried something and abandoned it. The engineering and design of this structure was carefully planned. It’s not an irregularity of construction. We leave the door open to discuss this with Egyptologists.
Tayoubi makes an important point here, and it is one that is unlikely to have been missed by the Egyptologists: the discovery of the Big Void “was not expected as far as I know by any sort of theory . . . and . . . was carefully planned.” In other words, this discovery is a troublesome one for Egyptology for if this anomalous void truly does turn out to be another giant chamber deep within the Great Pyramid, then its presence simply does not fit with the carefully constructed “tomb of the pharaoh” narrative we have all read in our school textbooks for the better part of two hundred years.
In 2019 the ScanPyramids project team performed further scans from several other locations within the Great Pyramid, including the Grand Gallery, the King’s Chamber, and also the small compartments high above the King’s Chamber (and thus above the Grand Gallery) in order to eliminate the possibility of any discovery being the result of a reflection or ghost image of the Grand Gallery… The new scans confirmed the 2017 results: the Big Void is a real, massive space located above the Grand Gallery (and not a reflection or ghost image), and its length, previously thought to be thirty meters, is now thought to be closer to forty meters. The team continued to scan up to the pyramid’s apex but did not detect any other significant unknown voids within the monument. As a result of the new findings, Hawass and Lehner have apparently changed their view of this discovery. Larry Pahl, director of the American Institute for Pyramid Research, said:
“As I write this (December, 2019), the Egyptian government has the Scan Pyramids team back in the relieving chambers above the Kings Chamber doing more scans and probing to find the best way to try and access that large void. The team has been quiet for several years after the discovery and worldwide announcement of the void. It took awhile for the Supreme Council to be convinced of that void, but now Dr. Zahi Hawass, and Dr. Mark Lehner are talking openly about it, as a possible store of something significant.”
Excerpt from Chapter 6
Show Me the Mummy
One of the great mysteries of Egyptology is that no original burial of any pharaoh has ever been found within the pyramids. Certainly, bits of human bone, mummy wrappings, and other minor artifacts have been discovered within various pyramids, but none of these have been conclusively proven to have come from an original burial of a king and most, in fact, have been shown to come from much later, intrusive burials.
The stock answer from the Egyptologists to this apparent paradox, this lack of pyramid mummies, is to propose that the pyramid tombs were robbed in antiquity and that every royal mummy was destroyed by the tomb raiders, usually by burning in an attempt to remove the precious amulets that were usually placed in the mummy’s bindings during the embalming process. However, even more puzzling is that a number of undisturbed burials have been found with their sarcophagi still fully intact and sealed, and yet, when the stone box was opened in modern times, it was found to be empty, entirely devoid of any royal mummy!
One of the most bizarre of these occurrences took place at Giza in 1925 when the archaeological team led by the esteemed Egyptologist George Reisner discovered (by a fluke accident) the hidden, underground shaft tomb of Khufu’s mother, Queen Hetepheres I, just a short distance to the east of the Great Pyramid. About this, Egyptologist Barbara Mertz writes:
“Distinguished visitors and high government officials were lowered down the shaft in basket chairs and crammed themselves into the little room. The great moment had arrived. The heavy sarcophagus lid was prized up. In a hush of anticipation Reisner stooped to peer inside. Then he straightened and faced the distinguished audience.
“Gentlemen,” he said wryly, “I regret Queen Hetephres is not receiving. . . .” What puzzled Reisner was why the elaborate care and secrecy had been expended on the burial on an empty sarcophagus. It had been used for burial; certain discolorations on the bottom proved that much. . . .
What disturbs me is the fact that there have been other sarcophagi found in place, unopened—and empty. Two of them date to the Third Dynasty, not so distant in time from the heyday of Hetephres. The cases are not exactly parallel, but yet there remains the incontestable and bewildering common feature of the empty sarcophagi.”
This particular empty tomb (designated G7000x by Egyptologists) remains, to this day, one of the greatest mysteries of ancient Egypt. The typical answer by Egyptologists in response to this conundrum is that the royal personage was perhaps lost in battle, or had drowned in the Nile to then be devoured by crocodiles, or was killed by some other calamity that meant the body was otherwise unavailable for burial. These explanations for the absence of the royal mummy are typically given without any evidence to back up the assertion, which, in time, becomes so embedded in the mainstream narrative that it becomes accepted as historical fact rather than seen as the mere speculation that it usually is.
Here then we have a queen, Khufu’s mother, the most important queen in Khufu’s court, whose body had evidently not been lost to a Nile crocodile or, it would seem, to any other such disaster since the sarcophagus appears to have been used and the queen’s internal organs had been removed from the body, embalmed, and placed in a canopic chest in this burial chamber, deep under the bedrock of the Giza plateau.
Many of the queen’s grave goods were also found in the chamber, including a number of sheets of gold. The presence of these gold sheets and other items of value ruled out the activity of tomb raiders, who would surely have taken these and, most likely, would have smashed the sarcophagus lid to access the royal mummy and the many precious amulets often placed within the mummy’s linen wrappings. Furthermore, it is highly improbable that tomb robbers would have taken the time to replace the heavy lid back onto the sarcophagus after having removed the royal mummy.
Nonetheless, in an attempt to explain this mystery, Reisner goes on to offer his hypothesis as to why the queen’s body was missing from the sarcophagus.
“This lady outlived Sneferu and was buried by her son Cheops [Khufu], probably beside her husband’s pyramid at Dahshur. The [original] tomb did not remain long undisturbed and the queen’s body was destroyed by the robbers who broke into the chamber. A clever prime minister seems to have been able to convince Cheops that little damage had been done. He ordered the lid of the alabaster coffin replaced to hide the absence of the queen’s body, and the greater part of the unharmed burial equipment was moved to a secret shaft in front of the Great Pyramid in the new cemetery at Giza. Cheops apparently never discovered the ruse practiced upon him by his minister, for he made an offering to his mother’s spirit before the shaft was finally closed.“
No one can fault Reisner for his imagination here, but there are simply too many flaws in his hypothesis for it to be anywhere near tenable or even plausible. Indeed, Mark Lehner discounted Reisner’s theory, writing:
“The hypothetical original tomb of Hetep-heres I at Dahshur has not been found (the only evidence for this queen’s existence comes from G7000x). There is no textual evidence, contemporary with the 4th Dynasty or from later times, for the plundering of this tomb and the transfer of its contents to Giza. Reisner’s reconstruction of events is based entirely upon the archaeological evidence gathered from G7000x. Nevertheless, his scenario was passed down in the literature e.g. The Cambridge Ancient History (Smith 1971, 168), as historical fact.”
Lehner has his own view that this tomb of Hetepheres I (G7000x) was not a reburial of the queen at all but that this tomb was, in fact, the queen’s original tomb, that her body was later transferred by Egyptian officials to the first of Khufu’s three so-called Queens’ Pyramids (G1-a), and that the lid of the queen’s original sarcophagus in G7000x was then reseated and the sarcophagus once again sealed by Khufu’s officials…
However, what goes against Lehner’s hypothesis is that none of the queen’s grave goods were transferred to the new pyramid tomb, G1-a, but appear to have been left behind in their entirety in the original tomb at Giza. Also, there are no inscriptions of any kind in or around pyramid G1-a attributing or in any way connecting this pyramid to Queen Hetepheres I. Finally, pyramid G1-a is believed to actually have been a tomb belonging not to Khufu’s mother but rather to one of Khufu’s wives, Merytyetes (a daughter of Sneferu and Hetepheres I).
There is, of course, an entirely different narrative by which the circumstances and strange disappearance of this ancient queen’s body can be simply and rationally explained, along with the other Third Dynasty kings’ sarcophagi found in similar circumstances.
Appendix 2: Mounting Evidence: New Confirmation of Vyse’s Deceit
The evidence presented in my previous book, The Great Pyramid Hoax, concerned itself primarily with the painted quarry marks from the lowest of the Vyse Chambers, Wellington’s Chamber, and the uppermost, Campbell’s Chamber. We will now consider a whole raft of new evidence that has only recently come to light from the other two Vyse Chambers (Nelson’s and Lady Arbuthnot’s) and that further indicates a hoax having been perpetrated within the Vyse Chambers of the Great Pyramid in 1837.
The Wheels Loosen
Intriguingly, Vyse’s fraudulent activity at Giza was apparently witnessed by one of Vyse’s workers, a man named Humphries Brewer. Brewer wrote letters back to his family in England about his travels through Egypt and the Holy Land and, it seems, about his time working with Vyse at Giza. Brewer eventually emigrated to the United States, and the letters he had written to his parents were apparently passed down the family line (presumably after the death of Brewer’s parents). While researching his family history with his mother and some elderly aunts in 1954, Walter Allen of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Brewer’s great grandson), came to learn of his great grandfather’s time with Vyse at Giza and recorded the details of the family discussion in his ham radio logbook at the time. In these notes, Allen recounts the following story of his great grandfather’s time with Vyse at Giza: “He joined a Col. Visse exploring Gizeh pyramids. Rechecked dimensions 2 pyramids. Had dispute with Raven and Hill about painted marks in pyramid. Faint marks were repainted, some were new. Did not find Tomb . . . had words with a Mr. Hill and Visse when he left.”
Even though Allen’s logbook page bears elements that would have been very difficult for a hoaxer to have known (thus imbuing the account’s authenticity with a high degree of confidence), typically, critics of the account point out that there is no mention in any of Vyse’s published volumes of Brewer ever having been in the colonel’s employ, implying that he had never actually worked with Vyse at Giza at all and thus could never have witnessed any fraudulent activity there. Without Brewer’s original letters to corroborate his great grandson’s later logbook account, the critics insist that this evidence from Allen is, at best, hearsay and, at worst, itself fraudulent. In their view, with no corroboration of the story, Allen’s account becomes inadmissible to the debate.
But, of course, Brewer’s original letters (which appear to have been lost sometime after 1954) are not the only place we should be looking for corroborating evidence of Allen’s story. If such an incident really had occurred at Giza in 1837, then it is highly unlikely indeed that Vyse would have made any mention of it in his published work, for to have done so, if he could not disprove the allegation, would have fatally undermined his word on the authenticity of the Khufu cartouches he claimed to have discovered within the Great Pyramid, something the colonel would, naturally, have wished to avoid. However, while Vyse, understandably, may have entirely expunged such an unpleasant event and the antagonists involved in it from his published volumes, he may not have been so concerned in doing so with his private account, an account that was, after all, for his eyes only. So is there anything in Vyse’s private notes that might lend support to Allen’s logbook account?
Vyse’s private field notes (his daily diary of events at Giza) consist of around six hundred foolscap pages covering the period from December 1835 to August 1837. The pages most likely to mention the Humphries Brewer incident would, logically, be found in the period when the colonel was blasting open the four Vyse Chambers, from March 30, 1837, to May 27, 1837—a period of around eight weeks. However, given that Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber contains more quarry marks than all of the other chambers combined, it is reasonable to further suppose that if any fraudulent activity had been occurring in the Great Pyramid during this eight-week period, then it is more likely to have been witnessed shortly after the opening of this particular chamber (between the dates of May 6 to May 10, 1837). The logic here is simple: more forged chamber marks require more preparation time, need more paint, more chamber visits, and generally more journeying back and forth to this chamber by the forgers—all of which add up to an increased probability of any fraudulent activity being spotted and witnessed by a third party between those particular dates. After checking Vyse’s private notes, we find that these five days amounted to just three foolscap pages—a considerably less arduous task to check, especially given the very difficult nature of the colonel’s handwriting.
So what, if anything, is present within these three pages of Vyse’s private notes between these specific dates of May 6 to May 10, 1837, that might point to fraudulent activity within Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber? Is there any corroborating evidence in Vyse’s private account from these critical days at Giza—these three pages—that might lend support to Allen’s story about his great grandfather calling foul on forgery within the Great Pyramid and being subsequently dismissed by Vyse?
Quite remarkably, it would appear that such an account is indeed present in Vyse’s private journal during this very time frame. However, as is typical when transcribing the colonel’s incredibly difficult handwriting, it comes with something of an unexpected twist to the account as relayed to us by Allen…
Excerpts from The Great Pyramid Void Enigma © Scott Creighton. All rights reserved. (Inner Traditions – Bear & Co., July 2021)